Please remember that Forage Friday is presented as trivia and not to be mistaken for medical advice. In addition, Privet is a toxic plant that in a survival situation could produce symptoms that are counterproductive to survival.
Folk tales are full of forbidden fruit archetypes. The poison apple is a classic. And although these cautionary tales have a symbolic reference to morality the dangers of a fruit that looks yummy but could wind up costing a unwise traveler their life is very real. Privet is just such a plant. In several of plant forums I belong to there’s always a novice that posts a picture of beautiful berries that are available at a time of year when there’s not much to forage on. Of course those of us have learned about Privet are quick to point out that it is a toxic plant and sometimes that warning is given with exuberance that can come off as being harsh. I like to believe that’s only because they care and are frightened for the poster. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We’re all a novice in some areas. According to Wikipedia, Privet is a mild toxin under normal circumstances. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and one online source advises to seek medical attention if more than 5 berries are consumed. They go on to warn that for some people just contact with the leaves and berries can cause rash and that smelling the flowers causes respiratory distress. Hence the extra caution in tonight’s disclaimer. I presume that the medical professionals would treat the poison with pumping the stomach and activated charcoal. Because the modern world has such wonderful equipment and training it’s likely that the victim would survive. But a lot of people are exploring the world of foraging in relation to wilderness survival. Food is actually the lowest priority in a sudden survival situation. The first priority being shelter, then fire, then water and food is last. The higher priorities will usually require a bit of effort. A person suffering from the symptoms of Privet poisoning will not be as capable of doing the physical work needed to build shelter and gather firewood and diarrhea will cause dehydration making the need for water even more urgent.
The confusion over the ediblilty of Privet Berries is understandable. In nature we see a lot of blue and purple berries that are edible. Our minds automatically associate those colors with things like grapes, blackberries, blueberries and elderberries. So naturally we see these colors and our reflexes are to expect the same pleasant experience.
Wikipedia and other sources also say that private is used in traditional Chinese medicine. The leaves and inner bark are used to treat diarrhea, ulcers chapped lips and sore throat. Skin problems are treated by using it to wash the area. But I also read that warning about how contact with the foliage causes a reaction.
In closing thoughts the two biggest things to remember are that it’s good to get a positive ID so never be afraid to ask before you try a new plant and remember that just because your instincts tell you that a plant looks good to eat doesn’t mean you’re instincts are right.
That’s it for the first Forage Friday post of 2021.
Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.
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